Bloody hell, periods are difficult! A cultural examination of menstruation at Urban


Illustration credit: Riley Young.

According to Taboo, an organization dedicated to ending period poverty through access and education, the hours of the traditional nine-to-five workday cater to male hormones and physiology. Because Urban roughly follows the traditional work day schedule, what does it feel like as a student to work in a system catered to the male body when you do not have one? While the administration does take action to create a positive environment for menstruating people by providing access to hygiene products and education, what does menstruation actually feel like at Urban? 

Male-bodied peoples’ testosterone levels are highest in the morning, providing energy for the day, and lowest at night to wind down. Female-bodied people experience energy boosts in the morning as well, however in smaller or larger doses of hormones depending on where they are in their 28-day hormonal cycle (the menstrual cycle).

As a result, female-bodied people are left to deal with the often negative effects of menstruation amidst a workday unsynchronized with their bodies. Daisy Meritt ‘24 said, “[Menstruating is] something a lot of people deal with. You have to deal with it every month. So if you get it, it can’t really incapacitate you because you are always going to have to deal with it anyway.”

The physical pain of menstruation affects students during the school day. “The first time I got my period, I was in so much pain during my Spanish class that I went into the back and rolled around on the floor where no one could see me,” Meritt said. 

As well as physical struggle, the emotional effects of menstruation can also get in the way of making it through the school day unscathed. “[Before] my period — with PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) — my emotions can [get in the way of academics],” Scarlett Hollenbeck ‘23, co-leader of PERIOD. club, said. “[I notice], especially in retrospect, days where I was not really focused, or kind of getting overwhelmed by things more than usual, which is not always related to my period, but it definitely can be.”

According to Healthline, an online health journal, people who menstruate are more prone to emotional fluctuations during their period due to the flux of hormones. “[During my first period], I felt so emotional that I started crying to gospel music even though I’m not religious,” Meritt said. 

Combining both the physical and emotional symptoms of menstruation, high-pressure academic work can exacerbate menstrual struggles. “God, I remember taking a science quiz in 2B during my period. It felt physically impossible, with the pain combined with just this heightened sense of emotional vulnerability,” Meritt said. “If a question seemed confusing upon first read, I felt completely derailed and just thought ‘I’m so dumb, I’m never going to get this.’ I just felt like crying and giving up.” 

Despite this monthly academic struggle that some students face, students still feel it is not reasonable to ask for leeway in their classes. Naya Woods ‘24 said, “I feel like if I told teachers, ‘I’m on my period, can I have an extension?’ they would not take that into consideration at all.”

Math Teacher Laura Hawkins said, “If [students] need to get support, if that’s going to get medicine or going to lay down in someone’s office, I’ll treat [menstruation] like any other illness.”

“Tell us what you need, advocate for yourself with what outcomes or support you need, and I’ll make accommodations,” said Grade Dean and Math Teacher Riley Maddox.

A significant portion of Urban menstruates, and is therefore affected by the physical and emotional disadvantages of menstruating in an academic environment. Similar to Hawkins and Maddox’s statements, finding ways to support these students throughout their cycle could make all the difference. “Just being knowledgeable and caring is enough,” Woods said.

Otherwise, Alisa Vitti, hormone expert and founder of hormonal healthcare company Flo Living, said in an interview with FHS Press, We’re overlooking a crucial component that governs the moods and emotions of half the population.”